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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 July 2006, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Children protest at overcrowding
Housing Minister Yvette Cooper with children
Yvette Cooper met families living in cramped homes
Children living in cramped conditions in London are urging the government to tackle the problem of overcrowding.

A group handed a petition to Housing Minister Yvette Cooper on Wednesday calling for a change to the law.

They want bigger homes built, and the definition of overcrowding to be updated. It has not changed since 1935.

Charity Shelter said that, under current rules, a family of four living in a one bedroom flat would not be classed as overcrowded.

Among those on College Green in Westminster on Wednesday was 11-year-old Samuel Pither from Reading.

I have no space to play
Samuel Pither

He lives in a two-bedroomed house with his mother and father, his brother, who is 21 months and has cerebral palsy, and his eight-year-old sister.

Samuel shares a room with his sister, which he said was "very annoying" and frustrating.

He said: "I have no space to play. I end up outside playing with my friends and getting into trouble or I'm playing with my Gameboy."

Children also handed over diaries of their experiences of overcrowding along with the petition to Miss Cooper at the Houses of Parliament.

Miss Cooper, who spent time talking to families and children living in cramped social housing, said it was a shocking problem.

London overcrowding
119,000 families live in overcrowded housing
261,000 children are suffering in overcrowded conditions
32% of children sleep in a room which is not a bedroom
13% of teenagers share a room with a teenager of the opposite sex
92% of children say overcrowding makes it difficult to read and do homework
98% of children say overcrowding causes depression, anxiety and stress
Figures supplied by Shelter

"For too long overcrowding has been a hidden problem.

"Councils and housing associations need to build more and bigger homes. This is about children's future. It is about whether they have got enough space to do their homework. There is not a quick fix."

She said the government had allocated 20m to tackle overcrowded council homes in London and they were consulting on options to update the definition of overcrowding.

The move was part of a campaign by homeless charity Shelter, which wants more family-sized social rented homes for those who need them most to be built.

Director Adam Sampson said: "This is an extraordinary collection of the innermost thoughts and feelings of children currently suffering in cramped conditions.

"The government has taken positive steps towards tackling the problem but there is much more to do if they hope to end this nightmare for thousands of overcrowded children."

Earlier this month the government pledged 50m to help homeless and overcrowded families in London.

It also launched a consultation on raising the outdated overcrowding standards.

See one girl's diary of overcrowding

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